‘The Last Train’ dir. David Schofield

Jay and Vicky grow paranoid due to the presence of boisterous teenagers as they wait for a late train.

Writer-Director: David Schofield
Producer: Gemma Walsh
DOP: Douglas Walshe
Key Cast: Andrew Conroy, Harriet Law

C8: Where did the idea for ‘The Last Train’ come from?

DS: It didn’t come from any single moment, more a familiarity of being in those types of situations on both sides. I’ve been the guy with the girl late at night when there’s been a bunch of rowdy lads and felt anxious usually for no real good reason other than the negative often false stereotypes that are forced down our throats daily. I have also been in the group of lads having had a few drinks and being a bit to loud. I have always felt self-conscious that we might be making people feel threatened and that these people have no idea at all that we are a completely harmless bunch. It seemed an interesting dynamic to explore this type of instantaneous judgement.

C8: How did you cast the film? What were you looking for in your actors?

DS: I wanted a very natural improvised feel so it was important the actors could associate with the situation. For the couple I used a local acting class in Manchester and spent time observing the actors over a few sessions. Talked with them, got to know them and see what their range was. The gang was from a sixth form college in Rusholme a really diverse part of Manchester. I wanted them to be a mix of ethnicities representative of complex inner-city friendship groups. I always wanted that clash of a couple from a town and a group of lads from the city.

C8: Did you work with the actors prior to shooting? What was the rehearsal process like?

DS: The film is really simple so I didn’t need or want to over rehearse. It was vital to save all the energy for the right moment on set. We met and talked the film through over a coffee just so we all understood the emotional arcs of the characters. Then we had one rehearsal session and went for it on the shoot.

C8: You shot at night in Manchester’s Victoria Station. Did you have to get a permit for filming or did you shoot guerrilla style?

DS: We had a fair few big lights and hundreds of meters of power cable so guerrilla was never really an option. This was shot before the DSLR spring on a HDV with a red rock adapter so we needed lots and lots of light to get even a low exposure. It took a few months but we eventually got Northern Rail to give us permission and the staff at the station really helped out a lot.

C8: What challenges were presented by shooting at night and how did you overcome them?

DS: We had to film from 11pm till 4:30am each night in January in one of the coldest winters on record. So much so the camera broke down a few times due to the cold. There was no real special method for dealing with the issues of a night shoot. We just made sure the location had been checked out by all the key crew so they new what needed to be where at what time. It was a case of all hands on deck for any lighting changes. The way it always is on a short.

C8: Shooting one scene over four nights can create issues of continuity. How did you work around this?

DS: It can, but we managed to split the film into sections based on the locations around the station and shot in chronological order. So each night we focused on one area and shot till we had drawn a line through that section. So we progressed gradually. Not always possible but with this being a contained film we managed well.

C8: What did you shoot on and what was the reasoning behind this choice?

DS: As mentioned this was before DSLRs got big so we shot on Sony HDV with a red rock adapter. I’d done a previous short on this format and really loved the super 16mm type look it gave. We added in some gain to make it a harder dirtier image. I wanted that European independent film look to reinforce the sense of threat.

C8: How was the film received on the festival circuit?

DS: It did well. Especially for a film made under 2K with no outside support. We were nominated for best short at Encounters and London shorts. The film screened at most of the big UK festivals.

C8: Are film festivals the best place for emerging filmmakers to showcase their work?

DS: A few years ago I would have probably said yes but my thoughts are changing on this now. Unless you win top prize at a major festival then your kind of just another film in the programme. It can open doors but you have to be totally ready with a slate of other ideas and a really clear sense of what you want to do next. I actually think releasing directly online can be better. You reach a broader audience and eliminate that exclusivity of only being able to see something at a festival. The more eyes on your work whilst it is fresh the better.

C8: Is there any advice you would give to emerging filmmakers?

DS: Well I am still very much in this category myself but all I would say is make stuff. Don’t wait for funding to fall in your lap. Your first films are all about giving it a go and enjoying those rough edges. If the story and acting is good then lots will be forgiven in regard to the production quality. Learn on the job.

C8: What is on the horizon for David Schofield?

DS: Directing commercials with the Mob Film company and I have been developing a few more ambitious shorts over the last couple of years amidst directing commercials. Hopefully one of these shorts can gain funding this year. Beyond that I have a couple of features at early draft stage with some co-writers and an off the wall fantasy project I am going to attempt to put through the crowd funding route. I’ve been skirting around drama for a couple of years and its time to jump back in. Hopefully this will be the year that see’s me creep toward a feature production.